As we walk down the corridor towards the office of George Cowley it's hard to believe it's been a month since we were here last. It seems no time at all. Bodie hobbles along beside me, the novelty of being in plaster and on crutches has long since left him, thank goodness. There are only so many of his pirate impressions I can take. Now he is bored and frustrated. It'll be another two weeks though until the plaster is taken off his somewhat shattered foot. He nearly died in the accident, we both did and for me at any rate the memories of it still linger. We both need to get back to work if we are to put it behind us.
"Gentlemen, good to have you back." Cowley greets us with sincerity.
"Good to be back, Sir."
"Never thought I'd hear you say that, Bodie. Sit yourselves down." Cowley waits until we are seated. "Obviously for the next couple of weeks you'll both be deskbound." he continues, ignoring the groans that then come from Bodie's direction.
"You'll both need to attend the Pyscological Evaluations that I have scheduled for you today and Doyle, you'll attend a medical within the next couple of days. Macklin will then brief you on a physical training excerise."
Bodie smirks at me in amusement and I pull a face at him content in the knowledge that he's also got the pleasure of Macklin to come in a few weeks.
"In the mean time," Cowley continues getting to his feet and moving across the room to lift a box. "These are all unresolved case files. You need to go through them looking for leads and following up any by phone. I'll pass anything else you come up with to other agents to persue."
"Oh come on,Sir!"Bodie protests loudly. Bodie and paperwork are not a match made in heaven.
"Yes, Bodie?" Cowley fixes his gaze on him and Bodie knows there's nothing to be gained in any further objections. "What else would you have me do with you? You've refused any more sick leave and as you've added to my budget by writing off a car in the accident I hardly think you are in a position to complain."
This time it's my turn to grin at Bodie. Cowley stands over him with the box.
"You'll use the Interview Room and you are NOT to bother Sally. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes,Sir" Bodie replies sullenly.
"Any questions?" He glances at Bodie for any last minute protests and then promptly drops the box in his lap.
"Good day gentlemen." Our absence has clearly not made his heart grow fonder or so he would have us believe.
"I'm sure he gets some sadistic pleasure at my misery." Bodie grumbles as we head down the corridor. 'He's not the only one.' I think, amused.
"Look, you're alive aren't you?" I inform him."And we are here so let's just make the best of it. I'll get us some drinks. Coffee? Tea?"
"Coffee and…" Bodie stops suddenly as we reach the open doorway of the restroom. Inside at the table sits a young woman engrossed in a newspaper. To say she's stunning is an understaement. Blonde hair cascades over her shoulders and those eyes are the bluest I've ever seen.
"Wow!" whispers Bodie. "She's….."
"Beautiful." I agree.
"And clearly out of your league."I tell him as we cast our eyes over her approvingly.
"Well she's definetly not in yours!"
"Charming. Come on," I urge. "We've got work to do. Besides she's far too young."
"Now hang on a minute mate!" Bodie pulls at my sleeve as I start to walk away. "We've at least got to find out who she is! And a tenner says she's mine by the end of the day."
Bodie straightens himself on his crutches. "Time to make these things work in my favour. Watch and learn, old son,watch and learn."
He pushes passed me and embarks on an acting career. There's a lot of grunting and groaning as he shuffles with exaggerated effort inside. He's hoping the woman will leap to his assistance as he over acts, grappling with the crutches but instead she merely turns her head almost disinterestedly in his direction. This doesn't put Bodie off in the slightest. He turns to me, indicating to the box I'm carrying. "You can put that down there, my good man."
"I beg your pardon?" I reply, indignantly. He ignores me and moves to sit opposite the woman. He offers her his hand. "Bodie, the name's Bodie."
"Really." She doesn't take his hand. He's got his work cut out here. Beautiful beyond words she may be but she's no pushover and I fancy she's met people like Bodie before.
I put the box on the table. "Hello, are you waiting for someone? Do they know you are here?" She turns her sparkling blue eyes towards me. "Yes, thank you. I'm fine."
"Can I get you a coffee?"
"A tea would be nice, thank you."
Bodie, horrified at my effortless progress in befriending the woman rushes to recover lost ground. He taps the plaster surrounding his foot.
"Did this on a dangerous assignment." he says eagerly, pulling out the sympathy card again. 'You've got to love him for trying!'
If she was going to deign to reply she doesn't get the chance as I place a cup of tea before her.
"I'm Ray, Ray Doyle."
"Annabelle, everyone calls me Belle."
"What brings you to C.I.5, Belle?"
"I'm currently in the police force but am thinking about joining this organisation."
Bodie nearly falls off his chair in excitement. "You are?"
"Yes." Belle finally gives him some attention. "What's this George Cowley like?"
"Hard, mean, a slave driver and Scottish. Apart from that he's okay." Bodie tells her.
"Ignore him,Belle. Bodie here is just bitter and twisted. Cowley is hard working,honest , fair and a good boss. You won't find better." I inform her, standing up. "Speaking of which, Bodie and I had better go. Cowley is expecting us to work through this box of files so we'd better get started."
Bodie shows no signs of leaving until I repeat his name firmly and he follows me reluctantly to the door.
"Perhaps we'll see you later?" I ask.
Back in the corridor again and Bodie starts off back the way we'd come.
"I'm going to find out what Cowley knows about her."
"Bodie! No!" I warn but it's too late, he's already inside courting trouble. I stand a few feet away outside and can't deny that I'm interested too.
"Sir, there's a bird in the restroom."
"Well open a window and let it out." Cowley replies, though I can tell he knows exactly what Bodie is refering to.
"No Sir, I mean a woman of the female variety."
"Yes Bodie, I'm well aware women tend to be female."
"Who is she?"
"And you need to know, why exactly, Bodie?"
"Just interested Sir, being alert, security conscious, challenging unfamiliar people in the building."
"Indeed." Cowley says doubtfully. "Not that it's any of your business but she's interested in joining us. She's to spend the morning on surveillance with McCabe and Williams. Had you not incapacitated yourself she was to be placed with you and Doyle but you put paid to that. Anything else I can tell you, Bodie?" Cowley's tone indicates that there had better not be and, as insensitive as Bodie can be at times he picks up on this. Cowley has just compounded Bodie's misery and it is palpable in his dejected voice.
"Tell Doyle Dr Scott will see him at noon. Close the door on your way out."
Bodie doesn't say a word as he joins me, my own heart also having plummeted at the prospect of my impending Phycological Evaluation, a part of the job I hate. We make a sad picture plodding back to the Interview Room, made worse as ahead of us Belle follows McCabe and Williams down the corridor to the car park.
"That should be us." Bodie states the obvious.
"Yeah and who's fault is that?"
"Don't rub it in." He doesn't need reminding that it was him that had failed to heed my advice to slow down as we had persued a car along a narrow country lane,crashed through a gate and ended up in a lake. Not that I blame him in the slightest. Had it been me that was driving who's to say I wouldn't have done the same.
After a few initial comments from Bodie such as 'This is a waste of time' and 'Wished I'd stayed on the sick now' he surprises me and knuckles down to some work. Only once did he leave the room on the pretence of getting coffee and was gone longer than it should have taken that I knew he'd risked sneaking off to relieve the boredom by sharing a few illicit words with Sally, Cowley's secretary in the room next door. But as dutiful as ever he comes back with no coffee but a grin on his face and then puts in another hours work going through files that have so far failed to bring any useful leads. Later Bodie catches me glancing at the clock, giving me a look of sympathy as I leave to meet Dr. Jane Scott.
Leaving Dr. Scott's office I can't immediately face going straight back to the Interview Room. I have always found her sessions leave me uncomfortable and stressed and for a while afterwards I really don't want to talk to anyone. So instead I head outside to the warm Summer sunshine and walk by the flowerbeds to a wooden bench. There is nothing but silence, warmth, birdsong and the gentle scent of the mid July roses. I take a deep breath and soak it all in and a minute of this seems to be all I need to feel normal again. Which is just as well as,when I open my eyes I see Long John Silver coming towards me laden with a carrier bag which swings about wildly with each lumbering step.I smile widely in amusement at the sight of him and a look of concern washes from him but he asks me anyway.
"Yeah, what's in the bag?"
"Romantic lunch for two." Bodie replies, thowing himself down beside me.
"Belle's never agreed to go to lunch with you!" I exclaim.
"No, this is for you and me. Mind you, I think she's warming to me. I'm sure she just smiled at my pirate impression."
"She's back then?"
"Yeah, just for lunch with Cowley and then she's back out again. He never took me out for lunch when I joined." Bodie remarks, sounding miffed.
"That's 'cos you're not beautiful, mate."
Bodie curls his lip to sneer at me as I peer inside the bag he's set down between us.
"Romantic? A ham sandwich and a packet of crisps? Yeah, I can see why you're a hit with the girls."
"It was all I had to work with,you know. That vending machine doesn't have a great selection." He casts his eyes around the neatly tended gardens. " Hey, its nice here isn't it? We should do this more often."
Our breaks from work are invariably in a car parked on a street with hastily grabbed junk food. We are rarely at CI5's headquarters for any amount of time.
"Yeah." I agree. "But not the romantic bit."
"Well, not with you that's for sure."
We finish lunch and head back into the building. Apart from Bodie keeping his appointment with Dr. Scott the afternoon passes uneventfully. Even though I have a high threshold for boredom when it comes to paperwork due to it being a necessary evil from my police force days I am forced to admit, several hours later, that I have had enough for one day. Matters are made worse by the fact we've gleaned very little new information on any of the cases. Bodie glances at the clock then at his watch and then, sighing, he looks at me. Its very nearly the end of the day and I know he has heard the return of McCabe and Williams in the corridor.
"If Cowley wants any more out of me he's going to have to pay me danger money because I'm in danger of dying of boredom." he says, echoing my own thoughts and closing the file he's working on. I agree and we head out into the corridor towards the restroom.
I am surprised when Belle springs to her feet to open the door wide for Bodie and his crutches. Perhaps he's right, she IS softening towards him. As Belle and I make drinks she says to me "He's alright really isn't he, your friend Bodie?"
"In small doses, yes." I grin at her.
"He seemed really concerned about you when he saw you in the gardens. He was out of here as fast as he could…limp." She flashes me her beautiful smile and we take the drinks to the table.
"What do you do for fun in the evenings around this part of London?" she asks.
"Don't ask him!" Bodie exclaims nodding his head in my direction. " He's into books and painting. Likes nothing better than curling up with a good book in the evening."
"Really?" Much to Bodie's constenation this seems to spark Belles's interest. "I like a well read shows maturity and broadens horizons. That's why I only date the older more mature man, they have so much more about them."
Bodie and I stare at each other in surprise and disappointment. Well, that's ruled both of us out by the sounds of it.
"I have books." Bodie says, a mock hurt tone to his voice as he makes one last ditch attempt to win this beauty.
"Two years worth of Playboy magazines even with special editions does not constitute a book." I inform him.
"Do you travel, Ray?" Belle asks.
"Travel?" Bodie snorts loudly, getting his own back. "He's never even been out of London! Now, if you're talking travel then I'm your man. And I could show you around the local area tonight if you like."
"Thank you but I already have a date for tonight."
Just as both Bodie and I reckon either McCabe or Williams have got to her first Cowley appears in the doorway. And then both Bodie and I watch in utter astonishment as Cowley's eyes positively dance with pleasure when they alight on Belle. This hard granite faced man appears to melt before us.
"Ah, Belle, my wee lovely. How was your afternoon?" 'My wee lovely?'
"Good, good, you can tell me all about it over dinner. Are you ready?"
Bodie and I appear to have turned to statues as we stand there completely speechless and open mouthed. Belle picks up her bag and jacket and links her arm through Cowley's and he pats it, his thumb playing gently on the back of her hand. His expression changes in an instant when he looks at us.
"Make sure your notes are on my desk before you leave." He turns back to Belle, his face once again alive with tender affection. "Shall we go?"
As they sweep out of the room its several seconds before either of us comes back to life.
"I think I'm hallucinating." says Bodie. "What just happened there?"
"Cowley's gone all…..all…..gooey." I reply in amazement.
"I didn't think that was possible."
"Me neither." I agree.
"The lucky old …so and so! But she's old enough to be his….. his….. granddaughter!" Bodie exclaims.
"He's not that old."
"Are you kidding? He's got to be fifty to fifty five. That's old!" Bodie reaches for his crutches. "Come on, I need a drink. I think we've earned it."
"Definetly," I agree. "I'll just put the last of our notes on Cowley's desk."
I duck back into the Interview room, grab the files and then place them on Cowley's desk. As I turn to leave I catch sight of a thin beige folder in his "In" tray with the name Annabelle Fraser printed on the cover. I can't resist the temptation to have a quick look inside. There's a photo of Annabelle and a short resume' of her career to date. As I flick through the only two pages in it it doesn't tell me anything that I wouldn't expect until somthing catches my eye. At the foot of the last page it states 'Next of Kin, George Cowley, Uncle'. 'She's his neice! Well that explains a lot.'
Out in the corridor I suppress a smile as I hurry to catch up with Bodie.
"Well, it's the end of the day and as I can't see Belle hanging off your arm I reckon you owe me £10." I inform him.
He sighs resignedly. "Its not been a good day." he grumbles, reaching into his wallet to hand me a crisp note which I pocket quickly. ' Its about to get a whole lot worse.' I muse as I remember Bodie voicing his non too complimentary thoughts on Cowley to Belle. She's bound to tell him in casual conversation.
" Mate, I think there's something you should know." I slip a consoling arm around Bodie's shoulders, ready to impart my new found information.